All’s Fair: Brands Must Be The Forefront Of Fairness

Institutional trust is in serious decline. Sadly, as the surveys show, people around the world no longer trust government, healthcare systems, political systems, educational entities, leaders, experts, social systems, financial communities, news media, religious institutions, and so forth. Increasingly, we trust peers of unknown expertise on rating sites and their reviews. We trust online communities, and online influencers – many of whom we never meet in person.

However, there is good news on the horizon. While we are experiencing a trust deficit, at the same time we are observing a desire for fairness. While we wring our hands over the decline in trust, there are indications that as people we are seeking fairness on a global basis.

Financial Times tells us that corporate brands are facing revolts against only having their AGMs (Annual General Meetings of shareholders) as online meetings. The original rationale for online only AGMs was to make the meeting more global as many shareholders could not always participate due to geography. Many corporations love the idea of online only meetings. Shareholders are face-to-face with the powers that be, asking questions, pressing for answers, and putting CEOs’, CFOs’, with all the other Cs’ feet to the fire in an extremely public manner. However, there is also pushback to online only meetings: many, including some large shareholders, see the lack of in-person annual meetings as unfair. Without the ability to stand up and look a CEO in the eyes, corporations can avoid public embarrassment.

The New York Times writes that Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, an investment firm that manages $6 trillion, is telling fund managers, private equity companies, and corporate leaders that it is not enough to make profits; it is imperative to serve a social purpose. There is too much talk and not enough action when it comes to social responsibility; enterprises must be fair and just in what they implement for the common good.

Additionally. The New York Times points out that Jana Partners (the activists that Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey called “greedy bastards”) is now urging Apple to take a long, deep look at how its products are affecting children. We can overlook the irony of Jana Partners urging Apple to look at the long-term effects of its products on children, as any focus on health, wellness, and fairness to children is desirable.

Finally, a recent American Express Company study indicates that as Millennials age and rise in their companies, their commitments to social justice and fairness will reshape C-Suites around the world. In the US alone, currently 40% of Millennials leaders and managers see fairness as essential for a corporate leader.
They expect to be treated fairly. They expect prices to be fair for the benefits received. Is this brand a fair value? Marketers do not determine fair value: customers determine fair value. What is fair value? Every brand should know what customers perceive as fair value.

Today’s conversations about fairness are no longer merely about the fair relationship between benefits and price. The conversation is about whether or not you are behaving in a fair manner. Of course, pricing is important. People were outraged with Uber’s extreme use of dynamic pricing fluctuations. The fare was not fair.

Brands must be transparent in their behaviors toward employees, communities, customers, countries, stakeholders, and planet. Brands must deal with personal customer data in fair ways, not leveraging the information in ways that violate an individual’s privacy for the sake of brand profits. Brands must not only create the doors of career opportunities, but also open wide those doors so employees can walk through and take advantage of those opportunities. Brand must stand up for what they stand for. Commitment to social responsibility increases the perception of earning fair profits. Be fair to employees, customers, the community, the planet.

Fairness is highly personal. From our playground cries of “that’s not fair” to our current focus on fair-based behaviors towards people and planet, brands have an opportunity to build trust by focusing on fairness.